Tech expecting test of toughness vs. Pitt
Past four meetings have been decided by one possession
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been on the sideline for all 17 games the Hokies have played against Pitt. In the 15 of those where he’s led the defense, eight of the games have been decided by one possession, including the past four.
“They’ve been a lot of tough, hard-nosed football games,” Foster said. “And I expect this to be one too. I know that we’ve beaten them the last couple years and it’s going to be senior
day up there this year, and there’s a lot on the line. They’re in the lead of this thing, and they want to keep it going.”
Pittsburgh sits atop the Coastal Division at 4-1 in the conference with three games to play. Virginia Tech needs to win out to make the ACC championship game. The Hokies need to win at least two of their last three games to keep their streak of 25 straight bowl appearances alive.
But neither side is looking at the big picture as they prepare for Saturday’s game.
“Nothing else matters,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Those standings mean absolutely nothing. They really don’t. What are we going to do, stare at those, Google those all day, look at them on Twitter. If that’s our focus, you got a problem.”
Narduzzi spent much of the week focused on slowing down Virginia Tech’s offense. On the ACC’s weekly teleconference, the coach praised quarterback Ryan Willis’ playmaking ability and fretted over the Hokies’ screen game.
Virginia Tech had three screens in the first half against Boston College each go for 20-plus yards.
“They’re an excellent screen team, and they’ve got tons of them,” Narduzzi said. “They’ve got Tscreens, they’ve got what we call jailbreak screens, now screens, bubble screens. But we’ve practiced all week, and probably the hardest ones to really scheme against are those tailback screens because they do a nice job in their screens of — it’s almost like a 1,000-one, 1,000-two, 1,000-three, and then the back will get out, and the line does a great job of protecting it and then getting down and getting on people.”
While Narduzzi praised Virginia Tech’s offense, it remains a group searching for consistency. The Hokies have stumbled in recent weeks after strong starts. Things won’t get any easier this week against a Pittsburgh defense that likes to “tighten up” behind a wellexecuted zone scheme putting pusher on opposing receivers to make plays on the outside.
“That’s their defense, that’s what they do, that’s what they always do,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said. “There going to make you earn it all.”
The Hokies pulled a win from the jaws of defeat last year against Pittsburgh with an incredible goal line stand. Pittsburgh lost 20-14 after coming up short on four straight chances from the 1-yard line.
Virginia Tech coaches have brought up the moment this week as the team prepares for the rematch to highlight how close the series has been between the Coastal Division rivals in recent years.
“Look at the execution and the toughness and the discipline level it’s taken as a team to pull off the last two year’s worth,” Fuente said. “Two years ago we went up there and they were very, very good. If I’m not mistaken, they beat Clemson that year, and won a game by 3 points. This past year, it took a goal-line stand on senior day to win the game. And it’s going to take a similar type of toughness and execution and grit to accomplish a similar or the same result.”
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said whenever Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh play, the games have “been a lot of tough, hard-nosed football games. And I expect this to be one too.”
VIRGINIATECHATPITTSBURGH Saturday: 3:30 p.m. TV: ESPNURadio: 910, 96.1, 2 p.m.